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Federal Judge Strikes Down Speech Code at Temple University

Yesterday, in a case near to FIRE’s headquarters in Philadelphia, a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against Temple University’s former speech code. Christian DeJohn, a Temple graduate student and sergeant in the Pennsylvania National Guard, was allegedly denied his masters degree for expressing his viewpoints on the war. Represented by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), DeJohn filed suit against the university in February 2006. The court refused to dismiss the case on the grounds that there is significant evidence of ideological discrimination. The trial date is set for April 25, 2007. Just prior to the summary judgment deadline, the university changed its speech code, but continued to insist that the old policy was constitutional. ADF Senior Counsel and Director of ADF’s Center for Academic Freedom David French notes on Phi Beta Cons the arguments the university used to justify the code.

Temple has: -equated their (adult) students with (minor) high school students and argued the same free speech standards should apply in high school and college; -denied any knowledge of how certain policy documents even made it to the college’s website; -compared college students to public employees and argued they had free speech rights only when speaking on a matter of “public concern” outside the classroom; -argued that prior allegations of sexual harassment justified extreme and sweeping sexual harassment policies; and -argued that broad sexual harassment policies were justified by a series of highly-ideological academic papers written in the early Nineties—papers that actually had nothing to do with sexual harassment at Temple.

David French summed up the ruling thusly:

The court has reminded Temple—and all public universities in Pennsylvania—that universities must protect free expression rather than merely protecting views that are ‘politically correct.’

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